Palm Sunday Sermon, 2017
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
What do you want? If you made a list, what would be on it?
Some people aim low, wanting a nap.
Some people aim a bit higher, wanting good news from the doctor, food on the table, safety and peace at home, and an early and warm spring.
All of those are good wants. But are those things what you truly need?
In today’s Gospel lesson, we don’t have to ask what the people want, they let us know:
“The crowds that went before [Jesus] and that followed him were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” (Mt. 21:9).
“Hosanna” means…what? It means “save us.”
So quite clearly, the crowds want to be saved, and that’s a good want.
But from what do they want to be saved?
Was Jesus there to save them from what they wanted to be saved? Is He doing what they want?
And how do they think they’ll be saved?
Those are the difficult questions for today.
Calling Jesus the Son of David, asking Him for salvation, and worshiping Him is one thing.
Thinking that Jesus saves by dying is something else.
None of the disciples expected Jesus to die. Even with Jesus predicting His death and resurrection, they didn’t understand that Jesus would die.
The crowd cries out “Hosannah to the Son of David!” But they didn’t expect Jesus to die.
What do they want? Salvation.
How do they want it? They want salvation apart from a dead and bloody Jesus. And that’s not salvation at all.
They know Jesus is the king, the Son of David. They even want Him to rule at God’s right hand. But they don’t want Him to have to die to get there.
So, next question, from what do they want to be saved?
Since they don’t want Jesus to die, they don’t want to be saved from sin. Here’s what I mean:
Sin requires sacrifice for forgiveness. Blood.
Your forgiveness requires not the blood of bulls and goats but the blood of Jesus Christ.
They don’t expect Him to die. They don’t want Him to die.
So they don’t want to be saved from sin or death or damnation. They would never say it that way, but when you deny the cross to Jesus you are denying the world’s salvation.
What do they want? Salvation.
They want to be saved from the evils of this world just like we do. Some aim low, wanting the bloody Romans gone.
Some aim a bit higher. wanting eyes that see and legs that walk. They’ve heard that Jesus can do that.
But none of them aim for it all.
None of them want salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ who lives, dies, and is raised.
It’s not enough to want salvation.
It’s not enough to believe in God.
It’s not enough to pray.
It’s not enough to be a generic Christian.
Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone.
God is Triune—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Prayers are specific. We pray to the Father, through the Son, with the Holy Spirit.
Christianity is specific. The details matter. The doctrine matters. It’s impossible to believe in Jesus unto life everlasting and not take what He teaches to heart.
When we sing the words of the crowd in the Divine Service, when we sing the Sanctus, what do we mean?
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!”
What do we want? Salvation.
From what do we want to be saved? From the evils of this world, the laziness and doctrine of false christians, of course. But more specifically than that, from sin, death, and the devil.
Did Jesus come to save us from those things? Yes, indeed.
So what’s required for our salvation? Believe that you’re a sinner. Believe that God became flesh and lived and fought and sacrificed and died for you. Believe that Jesus’ blood atones for and covers your sins. Believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Believe that you will, too.
We are promised life eternal.
We are not promised an easy life temporal.
After the Fall and before the Last Day, we struggle and war against sin—our own flesh, and the devil.
Sometimes, we thank God for small victories: long naps, a good report from the doctor, and a peaceful Sunday afternoon at home.
But at all times we should remember the greater victory: the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection.
Jesus didn’t have to be crucified if life’s goal is a shorter work week or a better car.
But if you want to live forever, forgiven, at peace, and in joy, then Jesus had to die.
So what do you want?
Our Heavenly Father wanted to save us, and that had a very specific look and sound to it.
Jesus wanted to please His Father, do His will, and save us. That, too, had a very specific look and sound.
Our Father sent His Son into our flesh to be our servant. To be betrayed and killed.
Our Lord and Christ endured humiliation at the hands of His own creation. He suffered from authority He established. He was tortured, He became our curse, and had thorns He never wanted to exist wrapped around His head. Speaking the truth, He was charged with blasphemy. Loving all, He was hated. Desiring to gather, He was abandoned by His own.
What did He want? Your salvation.
Salvation from what? From the eternal death sin deserves.
What’s required for that salvation? His death.
And uncomplaining forth He rode into town to joyful shouts from people who didn’t have a clue.
Even His words from the Cross teach us of His want and will to seek and save us all: Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).
God provides for our needs, even when they’re furthest from what we want.
What we need, He gives.
Jesus says, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:31-33).
Jesus says, “Take eat, take drink, this is my Body, this is my Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins” (cf. 1 Corinthians 11).
Jesus says, “Believe and be baptized and you will be saved” (cf. Mark 16).
And so you know that He means you specifically, Christ our Lord sends His under-shepherds, His pastors, to preach the Word and forgive sins: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (cf. Jn. 20), Jesus says to the first pastors of the Church.
The best answer to the question “What do you want?” is “Whatever I need.”
Because of God’s mercy, we no longer have to ask for what we want.
Now, our question is this: “What do you have?”
So…What do you have? You,God’s child, have salvation.
Salvation from what? From sin, death, and the devil.
Did Jesus come to save you from those things? Indeed He did.
How did this come to be?
God gives His Christians faith.
Faith in Christ our God and Lord.
Faith in His life for me, His death for me, and His resurrection for me.
Faith in the Word combined with water poured in the Triune Name of God to save.
Faith in the words of Christ Himself, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
And faith in the words of the most blesséd Absolution:
In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!